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URBAN challenges

In a recent speech, the Commissioner responsible for regional development, Mr. Bruce Millan, outlined the European Union's response in the area of urban development.

Cities are the main focus and source of economic growth and development, technological innovation and public s...
In a recent speech, the Commissioner responsible for regional development, Mr. Bruce Millan, outlined the European Union's response in the area of urban development.

Cities are the main focus and source of economic growth and development, technological innovation and public service. However, at the same time, they offer the worst examples of congestion, pollution, industrial decay and social exclusion.

The European Union is the most highly urbanized region in the world. Despite this, Europe has a relatively balanced urban system compared with other continents. On the basis of figures presented at the Cairo Conference, in the year 2000 there will be 20 or so cities in the world with a population of more than 10 million, but none of these will be in Europe. Nevertheless the problems and potential of cities and urban areas have increasingly become a focus of policy making and public interest. European cities face, in particular, important environmental challenges in the areas of air quality, noise and traffic, managing water and energy resources and coping with an ever increasing production of waste.

Urban problems are best tackled at local level. The European Union's subsidiarity principle indicates that recent policies to address urban issues are most appropriately carried out by Member States and cities themselves. The Commission may contribute to the implementation of urban policies developed at national, regional and local level. It may in particular promote cooperation and encourage best practice.

The Commission has made every effort during the last few years to support policies favouring urban regeneration and many of the ideas about community-based development efforts have been promoted through EU-funded activities. Under the mainstream Structural Fund programmes for 1994-1999, the Commission is proposing an increased emphasis on community development.

The empowerment of local groups in formulating development strategies for their own areas is a key element in the success of community development, as is the active involvement of local residents and businesses in implementing the strategies and monitoring progress towards their objectives.

The trend for a stronger urban dimension in European policies is most explicitly demonstrated by the launching of the new Community initiative, URBAN.

URBAN aims to help some of the most deprived urban districts such as those with a high level of unemployment, a decayed urban fabric, bad housing conditions and a lack of social amenities. The aim is to attract economic activity and create confidence in the population living in deprived urban areas, and to combat social exclusion. The budget for URBAN is ECU 600 million which means that only a limited number of the most urgent and innovative cases can be supported under this initiative. However, this is only a small part of the effort that the Community is putting into urban regeneration.

Community assistance will be made available within the framework of the URBAN initiative in favour of integrated development programmes for a geographically defined and limited part of a city. The integrated approach should address, in a comprehensive way, the economic, social and environmental problems of the deprived urban area. The integrated programme should comprise a balanced and coherent set of economic development, social integration and environmental measures based on local partnership proposals. Priority will be given to integrated programmes which are of an innovative character, which have a demonstrable added value and help create local employment.
DE

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